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  • Hollyanne Simon

(Audio Version at the Bottom) Last week I had a "what do I do" moment, which I am realizing happens more often the longer I am a mom. If you are not a mom, don't check out. This applies to you too, I promise. My boys are very regulated and on a specific routine since they were born. It has changed a bit as they have grown, but it is always the same structure. Zeke was an "easy baby" and to our surprise Zane has been even easier. The sleep program we use explains how to teach babies around four months old how to self-settle without crying. First you pat them to sleep for a few days until they are comfortable, then you go to patting them until they are calm, then eventually you just put them down for bed and they fall asleep on their own. Typically this process takes a couple of weeks, which it did for Zeke. For Zane, we never even had to pat him, he just always went right to sleep...except for a few nights ago. After putting Zeke to bed in his room, I heard Zane crying uncontrollably from his crib in our room. Zane never cries and barely did as an infant so I was concerned. My first thought was to get him a bottle, assuming he was still hungry. After running downstairs to get him a bottle, I went in our room to find my upset babe. He had thrown up a little on the carpet and a bit on his outfit. I turned on the nightlight, gave him his bottle and began cleaning him up. After everything was cleaned up, I turned off the nightlight and he threw his bottle and started crying again. He didn't want his bottle and barely had any. I picked him up, sat down on the bed and he fell asleep in my arms...instantly. I sat there thinking about how for the first time since he was two months old, he wanted me to comfort him before bed. It literally blew me away. Zane...the baby who always went to sleep himself, Mr. independent, wanted mom to hold him. I started sobbing uncontrollably. It went from a frustrating and worrisome moment to a peace-filled, beautiful moment. I was filled with thankfulness as I held my sleeping one year old. I just sat there...holding him, thanking God for the blessing of being his mom. I decided I wanted to lay down while holding him, like I used to do. He woke up instantly, looked around, smiled, gave me a kiss and laid back down. At this point my tears overwhelmed me. My sweet boy knew not only what he needed, but what I needed. My heart was full. The night may have looked differently. I was not able to go downstairs and clean up right away or start my dinner. I didn't get to start the things I had planned to do, until an hour later. Normally this would have driven me crazy, but this time I realized my night couldn't have been better. This happens in life. We may have moments, weeks, months, or seasons that don't go as we have planned. Military life has taught me this more than anything. In the midst of changed plans and difficult moments, growth happens. Often times we have to be stretched in order to grow. This is something I try and focus on in hard seasons. We grow through what we go through! Sometimes things don't go as planned. Sometimes they turn out better.

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  • Hollyanne Simon

(Audio Version down below) I have always heard about the sacrifices military children make, but I am just starting to understand what this looks like. I figured I would not have to worry about this for a few more years since my boys are only two and one, but in these last couple of months I have seen how military life has affected my oldest son Ezekiel. Chris has been gone since the beginning of July. He then came home for a day and a half, and then left to Florida for Navy Recruiting School. He will be gone until the beginning of September.

My husband Chris and I chose this life almost eight years ago, but our kids have been born into it. For those of you that know me, I always have a positive attitude, especially when it comes to military life. Positivity and perspective is how we have been able to push through the hardest times as a military family. When Chris is home we are focused on cherishing that time and filling our space with love and gratitude for all the military does provide us. We accept the challenges and realize that it is part of our role as a military family. Chris has missed most of our wedding anniversaries, my College graduation and many birthdays but I always understand and make the most of the situation. He was not home for either of my pregnancies and never went to one appointment with me. I was a little sad at times but coped well because I am used to this life. I am mindful to remain positive through the tough times and recognize that this is part of my role as a military spouse. The most difficult concept for me to grasp thus far as a military family, is that my boys are sacrificing so much and they don't even realize it. Chris missed Zane's first birthday last month and it was honestly a very difficult day for me. I stepped away and broke down in tears in the laundry room while my best friend held me and told me that my feelings were valid. Zane did not know any better, but I did...and it made me sad for him. Not only that his Dad was not there, but it made me sad that Chris was missing out. The reality is that Chris is going to miss many significant moments in the boys lives, including many firsts. I know moments and events will happen where the boys are devastated their Dad is not there. It is up to me to communicate well, stay calm and positive and make it special for my boys, while including Chris in every way possible. Ezekiel has made it very obvious that he misses his Daddy but since he is not able to communicate that, it comes out in his behavior. He has regressed in a couple of areas such as sitting down for meal times and staying in his bed during nap and bed time. Some days are very challenging and he has many moments of frustration, fits, and tears. It has been really hard for my mama heart to watch. We talk about Daddy being away. When he was out to sea, I would say Daddy is on a... and Zeke would say, "boat!" Now I say Daddy is at... and Zeke says, "school!" I always tell him how much Daddy and Mommy love him and that Daddy misses him and is so proud of him. I have been focused on coming along side of him and supporting him in these big emotions while keeping a positive and fun atmosphere in the home. Some days are harder for me than others, but I am working on giving myself grace. I am already so proud of my boys for how resilient and happy they are through it all. They truly find joy in everything, even on difficult days. It inspires me to stay strong and continue to encourage my husband in his career. I will continue to share as we navigate parenting as a military family, in the hopes that it provides encouragement and support to other military families, while also providing perspective for non-military families.

Thank you all for the constant love and support for The Family Simon, it truly means the world to us.

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  • Hollyanne Simon

(Audio version down below) As #worldbreastfeedingweek comes to a close I need to share my story. In the last two years I have had so many conversations about breastfeeding and the more I see on social media, the more I feel there isn’t enough women saying that ultimately it is the mothers choice to breastfeed or not, regardless of the circumstances.

With Zeke I had no problems breastfeeding. He was given formula first as there was an emergency during his delivery, but for the week he was in the NICU, I breastfed him for every feeding and pumped for the night feedings we weren’t present for. We had no latch issues and things were going smoothly. When we got home, Chris was back to work the next day and I was left at home with a newborn and no clue what I was doing. I felt my whole day revolved around feeding him constantly and pumping. He would eat for an hour every feeding and I was left feeling exhausted, frustrated and concerned that my whole life was over and that I wouldn’t be able to properly care for myself because there was no time. It was feeding, pumping, feeding, pumping all while my body was healing from labor and figuring out how to mother. I felt extremely bonded to Zeke, but not from breastfeeding. I breastfed him for three weeks and exclusively pumped for three weeks. When Zeke was six weeks old, Chris left for two months and there was no way that I could sanely continue. I felt fine with my choice to switch him to formula after researching which would be best and I experienced instant relief.

With Zane I had a very different delivery and was able to breastfeed him 20 minutes after he was born. He had an amazing latch, my milk was in very quickly as I just had Zeke last year, and everything was going so well. I thought maybe this time around it would be easier as Chris would not be going out to sea, maybe he would eat less than Zeke and maybe I would actually enjoy it. I ended up with the same feelings this time around. I could not fathom how I would take care of a 14 month old and a newborn with Chris back at work, me working full time from home, while feeding Zane for an hour at a time and then being strapped to the pump for what felt like all the rest of my time. I was barely able to be there for Zeke and was left feeling, once again, like all day everyday revolved around breastfeeding. I breastfed Zane for two weeks before switching to formula and again...instant relief.

I do not share my story to justify my choice because no justification is needed. It is okay to choose to formula feed your baby even if there are no issues. You can still have an incredible bond with your baby without breastfeeding. It is okay to not like breastfeeding and it doesn’t make you any less of a mother.

Fed is always best and please, let us normalize a mother’s choice.

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